WHAT IS...? INTRO
The "What Is...?" page is, essentially, an FAQ. It is a list of major terms that could be brought up on this page, and things relating to this page. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list; the terms are defined as the authors see them, and while the authors strive to be as accurate as possible, there will always be differences of opinion and different takes on a subject. Individuals may, of course, define for themselves what various terms mean. This is a general guide, and nothing more.
To put it simply, multiplicity is when there is one body, but many souls, minds or what have you sharing the body. While some people call this "Multiple Personality Disorder" or "Dissociative Identity Disorder", they are not quite the same thing. MPD is a disorder where for some reason, usually from abuse or a traumatic situation, a person developed other personalities in their mind to help cope with the trauma suffered; these personalities are real, but they are usually part of the original person and were created by that person. DID is similar in that it is a disorder that tends to stem from abuse or trauma, but the difference is that the personalities don't exist and are merely the original person trying to cope with the trauma they suffered; DID replaced the term MPD in the United States (mostly), but it is still seen as a separate diagnosis in other countries. While MPD and DID could (and do) fall under the multiplicity umbrella, many multiples are "natural multiples"... people who may or may not have been abused/traumatized, for whom multiplicity is just a natural state of their being. These people tend to know they are in a multiple system from a very young age, but that is not always the case. It is not known how or why multiplicity occurs, let alone why some people are naturally multiple and other people are not.
Multiplicity is not a rare thing; because multiplicity is widely seen as an over-active imagination or a mental problem, multiple systems tend to keep quiet and keep to themselves. The multiples that wind up in the room of a therapist for their condition (known to them or not) tend to be the disordered systems stemming from abuse; this also holds true for those who go on talk shows, publish books or otherwise end up in the public eye. This has resulted in the psychiatric field assuming that multiplicity is both unusual and pathological; because most of the abuse cases were women, the psychiatric field has also long assumed that only women can be affected. Luckily, more and more people of all genders are coming out as being part of a multiple system, and displaying that it can be a healthy, functional condition, as well as proving that it is not a "unicorn condition" that traumatized women acquire. There are also rather ancient beliefs in history that lend to the idea that one body houses more than one soul.
While all systems are unique in their own ways, the people who make up a multiple system are people. Many, if not most, people in a multiple system take offense to the term "personality", "alter" or "part" being used to describe the individuals within the system. There are always exceptions, but most of the time, individuals within a multiple system have their own unique personalities... they are not one single aspect of the "main person". In fact, some systems do not have a main person at all; sometimes the original person seems to vanish or even die, and sometimes it seems that there never was an original person at all. People with a system might share similar traits, but again, exceptions aside... they have their own likes, dislikes, families, love interests, genders, sexualities, hobbies, fears, goals, and sometimes even their own medical conditions. There have been multiple systems where allergies change depending on who is "fronting", where some people are sick and some are not, and where some people are capable of running a marathon but some can barely walk a block. Why is this? No one really knows, and it is a bit of a mystery considering the fact that all these things-- allergies, illnesses and physical fitness-- aren't supposed to be things that can just up and change.
Some multiple systems contain people who are considered fictional, or from worlds that are considered fictional. Which brings us to our next term...
A soulbonder is a person who, essentially, shares their mental space and/or their body with the minds, souls or whatnot of people who are fictional, or people who are from worlds that are considered fictional. Sometimes a soulbond is an internal one, meaning they are people from something the soulbonder created themselves; sometimes a soulbond is an external one, meaning they are people (or are from places) that someone else created. The hows and whys of soulbonding aren't something this website wishes to take on, but one common theory is that everything existed, currently exists or will one day exist in this universe or some sort of multiverse, and people are merely pathways/channels for other worlds and other people to enter this reality for whatever reason. In the opinion of the authors, "existence" is a subjective term, and anything that is created exists on some level; the idea of "really exists" or "actually real" is moot. But as with anything, it is up for the individual for decide.
A soulbond, internal or external, may be "canon" (they match whatever the author wrote about them), "semi-canon" (they match in some ways but not in others), or "non-canon" (they don't match in many ways). Some use the term "alternate universe" (AU), meaning canon events might have taken place, but might not have, and there may be major or unexpected changes. For example, a soulbonder could have a Harry Potter as a soulbond, and that Harry Potter could be completely like the written Harry Potter, or be a Harry Potter where his mother was a Muggle, or be a Harry where his parents never died and "he" is in fact a girl named Harriet. Either way, when addressing a soulbonder or a soulbond, it is a bad idea to assume the soulbond is exactly the same as they are in the canon of that soulbond; this is especially so with characters that had little "screen time", weren't present at all in canon (such as a random elf from Middle Earth), or were someone that was considered a "bad guy". Most soulbonds are different from their canon in some way, and it is offensive to them to be treated as if they are a cut-n-paste version of their canon.
In addition to that, treating soulbonds as if they are "just characters" or fake is offensive. To the soulbonder, and certainly the soulbond, they are real people with real lives. Regardless of one's personal beliefs, they should strive to treat a soulbond as a real person.
While not part of the multiplicity or soulbonding community per se, Otherkin are people who believe that they are in some way not-entirely-human and instead identify as (or with) a mythological creature. Maybe they feel they were a dragon in a past life, or maybe they feel part of their soul is faerie; some people take a less spiritual approach and feel that it has to do with one's brain wiring or their environment growing up. As said before, going over the hows and whys isn't the point of this website. All that really matters is detailing the experience, and what it means to people in terms of multiplicity. Some people/soulbonds in a multiple system may identify as Otherkin, and because it is quite possible to have non-human system members and soulbonds, a person/soulbond may feel like they are truly a [insert species here] trapped in a human body.
Mediakin, also known as fictionkin (and sometimes derogatorily know as otakukin), are a form of Otherkin. To be specific, these people tend to feel as if they had a past life (or have a parallel life) as someone that is fictional, or someone from a world that is considered fictional. For example, a person may feel that they were Hamlet in a prior lifetime, or maybe feel like they were a random person that lived on the Earth where the movie Tron took place. Some soulbonds identify as mediakin, because they are technically fictional people or from fictional worlds, but they do exist; some multiple people identify as mediakin because they feel that the people who share the body are all part of one soul that manifested as different parts for whatever reason. There are many individual explanations and theories.
Therianthropy is similar to Otherkin, but rather than feeling they are mythological creatures or figures, a Therian is a person who feels they are in some way not-exactly-human and instead feel they either were or are an earthly non-human animal. For example, someone may feel as those their soul is feline, or that they had a past life as a hawk. This relates back to multiplicity because, again, some system members and some soulbonds are not human, and may identify as a [insert species here] stuck in a human body.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Age Slider :: A system member who's age changes, on purpose or not.
Alter :: A term used in the psychiatric field that is often seen as derogatory. As Astrae said on her website, the term "implies that one person in the group is real and the rest are not, or are less real. Even in systems where there is an original person the others came from, or where one person considers themself to be hosting the others, "alter" is taken by many systems as an insult, roughly analogous to "white only" and "separate but equal" in the segregated South."
Astral :: A term that describes a plane of existence, one that some people feel is made of energy and contains beings not present here on Earth.
Awakening :: A term used by some therians and otherkin for when someone "wakes up" and realizes who/what they are.
Blurry :: The feeling a system may have when they aren't sure who is fronting. This also happens sometimes when a new system member arrives, and they aren't quite sure what is going on. Similar terms include blendy, mushy, braingoop, etc.
Co-consciousness :: When two or more system members are aware of what is going on in the front; they might not be fronting or running the body, but they are paying attention to what is happening. Sometimes the people aren't aware of one another, sometimes they are.
Co-fronting :: When two or more system members are in front. Again, sometimes they are aware of each other, sometimes they aren't. When the people in front are all controlling the body, this is called co-running.
Core :: While another term used mostly in the MPD/DID cases, this term does apply to some multiple systems. The core is the original person in the body; there have been examples where the core has died or faded into the background, leaving one or more system members to assume control as the new "main person" in the body.
Dissociation :: A term that has different meanings. One meaning is a mental state in which a person (or people) detaches themselves from their surroundings; think about the last time you got engrossed in something you enjoyed, and an hour would go by without notice. Another meaning is when someone makes a conscious effort to pretend that an event didn't happen to them, like in some abuse cases, which some people in the mental health field feel is how multiple personalities are created. This doesn't hold true for all people who are abused, nor all people who are multiple.
Fictive :: A term for someone from a fictional source.
Front :: The front is the place in which one operate with the world. It is the mental position in which one operate the body and interacts with their surroundings. When a system member takes that position, they are said to be "in front" or "fronting". Two or more people can front at the same time. People who occupy the front on a regular basis are called front-runners; some front-runners stay in the front for weeks, months or even years at a time, and sometimes they can switch in a matter of seconds.
Gateway System :: A system in which the members are alive on another world, and use the body as a way to interact with Earth.
Headmate :: Persons who share one's mental space.
Hosting :: When a person allows other souls/people/soulbonds to use their body from time to time. The person in charge of the body is sometimes called the host, which is a term that can sometimes be derogatory due to the negative usage by the mental health field.
Integration :: A term that was used by the mental health field, and still used, unfortunately; it was when all system members in a body were forced to try and rejoin as one person, and some people have reported that this act killed system members. Integration was supposed to the be the "cure" for multiplicity, but it has since come out that for many people, integration was not permanent. In a more positive light, some systems can integrate naturally, though it is still not really seen as a positive thing.
Median :: A term for a person/system that is neither multiple nor a singlet. It is someone who has a system, but they are all parts of one person. Imagine a singular diamond that is cut into facets.
Parallel System :: (1) Two systems within one body that exist separately from one another. (2) System members that may be living in their own worlds while also being aware of this world. (3) Two bodies that may share members from one system.
Plural :: Another term for someone who is multiple, or who has soulbonds.
Singlet :: Someone who is not multiple or plural.
Shifting :: When a Therian goes from human to animal, or back again.
Switching :: When a change in who is fronting occurs. This can happen within seconds, and is usually unnoticeable. It is not always controllable.
System :: A group of people who share one body.
Trigger :: (1) Anything that causes a person to involuntarily recall past events, usually used in the sense of something traumatic but can be positive as well. For example, smelling a beloved grandmother's perfume or a war veteran hearing a helicopter fly over. (2) Something that can shift who is fronting. For example, if someone has a Star Wars soulbond, watching the movie might trigger that soulbond to front.
Walk-in :: A system member that is from outside the body and not in any way part of the "main person". Some people feel they are past life selves that simply refuse to "die", some people feel they are channeled spirits or beings from other worlds. This term varies widely depending on who one asks.